LONDON — The suspect in the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox said, "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain," when asked to state his name at his first court appearance.
Thomas Mair's shocking statement on Saturday reignited debate online about the words in the press and in social media used to describe him — as a "terrorist" versus "a loner with mental health problems."
Mair has been remanded into custody from the court in London. He has been charged with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon, West Yorkshire police said.
Mair, 52, is alleged to have stabbed and shot the 41-year-old Cox on the street after she met with constituents in Birstall, near the northern city of Leeds, on Thursday.
Mair was asked to repeat himself when asked his name, and he repeated the same statement. He was silent until he was taken off to prison, and his lawyers confirmed that he was Thomas Mair.
The statement reignited criticism about the terms used to describe him, a discussion that kicked off Friday as reports alleged that Mair had ties to neo-Nazi organisations. America's Southern Poverty Law Center saidMair bought a manual on how to build homemade guns and explosives from the National Alliance, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.
The discussion on Twitter on Saturday mostly focused on how white, non-Muslim suspects are referred to compared with other suspects.
In other developments surrounding the case, a GoFundMe page set up to benefit charities she supported has raised more than £335,000 ($481,127) in just under a day. They include HOPE not hate, a charity to fight extremism in Britain.
And U.S. President Barack Obama phoned Cox's husband, Brendan, from Air Force One to offer his condolences. Obama said: "The world is a better place because of her selfless service to others, and there can be no justification for this heinous crime, which robbed a family, a community, and a nation of a dedicated wife, mother and public servant."
Campaigners on both sides of the debate over whether to leave the European Union suspended activities Saturday as a sign of respect.
Mair will appear at London's Old Bailey court Monday.
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